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July 24, 2014

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05/08/06 Radio Though The Eyes Of Hollywood
During a recent visit to Hollywood, I dined with a friend who is a prominent film writer/director, and his film producer wife. As we spoke about the film business, I noticed some similarities to the radio business.

“Hollywood got bought up by a bunch of big corporations,” he said. “They've killed the business.” When I asked him to elaborate, he told me that the corporations took a business of craftsmen and turned it into a business of accountants. As a result, business people and researchers began making decisions on films.

Since films are about stories, creativity, emotion, and entertainment, he said the business became a disaster in the hands of accountants. Suddenly, everything became about formulas, and an industry built on risk was now about doing things safely. As a result, a huge number of the new films being produced were either sequels or remakes. Meanwhile, budgets were slashed because the film business fell on hard times, and the companies' stocks prices declined.

People aren't going to the movies as often as they used to because there aren't as many good movies. Plus, new technologies are capturing the attention of people who are increasingly watching films on DVD, or spending time online.

Additionally, the entire business is moving to digital distribution; the PC is the movie screen of the future, so suddenly anyone can be in the film business. “The big studio system in Hollywood is dead,” said my friend.

Meanwhile, new independent producers - mostly billionaires like Mark Cuban, Steve Jobs, Phil Anschutz and others who supposedly know nothing about the film business - are infusing it with creativity. They're focusing on talent, great writers and directors, and at a fraction of the cost of big budget films. In the process, they're capturing Oscar nominations and breaking box office records.

The similarities between the film industry and the radio industry are fascinating. The only difference is that the independent producers have not yet entered the radio business because there are no licenses to be had.

Still, there is a sense of clarity when you can see your own industry through the eyes of another. Some feel our content is too safe, too stale. It has certainly become a business controlled by large, financially driven organizations and formulas. And digital technologies also challenge those in radio.

Though Hollywood's challenges are deep, it appears the turnaround is going to come from those focused on creativity, not formulas and research. Perhaps there is a clue in Hollywood's experience that the radio industry should embrace?

In any case, it's refreshing to know those of us in radio are not alone.


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